Sara and I spent the evening of July 4 sampling a craft brew made by our good buddy Sandy Whitesides. He was kind enough to send a bottle of the elixir on the condition that it receive a tasting review here on the page. I was more than happy to oblige. So, here goes....
Not knowing what type of ale it was going to be, I saw it as a fun mystery tasting. I've been impressed with the Whitesides brews for a few years now, so I knew it would be worth the surprise.
The dark 750 mL bottle opened with a pleasant fizz, and the brew poured a wonderful, semi-reddish deep copper color into my glass. It formed a wonderful head -- light tan, at least an inch high. Aha, I exclaimed, something in the brown ale department. I noted a goodly amount of carbonation action in the glass.
The nose began nice and complex. My first thought was, "pleasantly metallic," which I immediately tempered to, "slight ester quality from the yeast." This was quickly followed by rich hints of caramel, brown sugar, roasted nuts, and hay, and Sara chimed in with a clear scent of allspice.
The nose led us to believe it would be an ale on the sweet side -- perhaps more like a Scots Ale than an English or American Brown.
Once on the tongue, however, the brew proved much less sweet than the nose suggested -- in a good way! It was deep, rich, and bubbly. The mild (pleasant) ester quality continued, leading me to suspect that Sandy does not mess around with his brewer's yeast, but goes for the good stuff. The ale drank toasty, malty, and nutty, with that allspice note from the nose converging with a hint of cloves. Not overtly hoppy, but far from being blandly malty -- the fault of lesser Scots Ales in my opinion. It continued to be carbonated all the way down.
I decided to call it a "Mild American Brown Ale," with a quasi-English Mild Ale twist. Slightly thinner than, say, Samuel Smith's Nut Brown; I'd gladly put it on a shelf alongside Acme Brown or Avery Ellie's Brown anyday.
The fun part was pairing it with food, and then imagining what other food pairings would work.
Good (great, really) with artisan bread and a high-end sharp cheddar cheese, for sure.
It would pair up nicely with either roasted nuts (peanuts or cashews) or (Sara's genius) a warm spicy apple pie. I had it with my leftovers from the night before -- orange/ginger glazed duck breast with soba noodles, snow peas, red pepper cubes and scallions -- brilliant!
Good job, Sandy. Well-brewed and an excellent way to spend a July evening, holiday or otherwise.